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On Seeking Consensus on the Internalized Costs of Energy Efficiency

DATA: Levelized cost of efficient transport: $1.31/gal according to the example in the transport section of the article for a 10 year car ownership period.

March 23, 2015    View Comment    

On Seeking Consensus on the Internalized Costs of Energy Efficiency

DATA: Levelized cost of efficient heating: $6/GJ according to the example in the heating section of the article. 

March 23, 2015    View Comment    

On Seeking Consensus on the Internalized Costs of Energy Efficiency

DATA: LCOE of efficiency: $36/MWh according to the example in the electricity section of the article. 

March 23, 2015    View Comment    

On The Decoupling of Energy, Carbon, and GDP in the United States

Some time ago, I plotted the fraction of the US economy comprised of manufacturing against energy intensity to find an almost perfect correlation (see below). It therefore appears as if the outsourcing of energy intensive labour to developing nations (and buying back the goods with dollars created out of thin air) is the primary cause of US energy intensity reductions. 

 

Other worrying decoupling trends are shown below in terms of life expectancy and happiness. As far as I can see, GDP growth is pretty useless if it does not translate to increases in the number of happy life years enjoyed by the population (especially in developed nations). 

 

March 21, 2015    View Comment    

On Rethink the Grid: Personal Power Stations

For the other side of this story, I wrote two articles earlier on the potential for distributed generation and distributed storage & demand response. Here are the main conclusions:

"In comparison to the utility scale alternative, distributed generation (primarily solar PV) has a fairly low potential and, in the vast majority of cases, will be unnecessarily expensive and complex.

This does not mean that distributed generation will not be deployed. Niche markets exist and the ideological attractiveness of this energy option remains very high and extremely marketable. What it does mean, however, is that distributed generation will most probably not make more than a minor contribution to the clean energy revolution that will have to take place this century. Headlines claiming that distributed solar will soon overthrow utilities everywhere should be patiently ignored until reality sinks in. As an example, the highly optimistic hi-Ren scenario in the PV Technology Roadmap from the IEA which has received broad PV-positive press lately forecasts about 8% of electricity from distributed PV by 2050. The vast majority of the remaining 92% will remain utility scale. It should also be mentioned that electricity accounts for only about 40% of primary energy consumption. 

The final conclusion from these two articles is twofold: 1) distributed generation is affordable, but far from economic and 2) distributed generation can contribute, but only to a minor degree. For these reasons, the ideological attractiveness of distributed generation presents a particularly difficult problem: we simply cannot afford to aggressively pursue uneconomic solutions with very limited potential when it comes to the energy and climate issues we face today. The time has come to leave ideology at the door and get pragmatic about the challenge before us."

March 21, 2015    View Comment    

On China's Coal Use and Estimated CO2 Emissions Fell in 2014

It is great that Chinese CO2 emissions declined, but, as with most of these kinds of articles, it is important to point out that wind and solar played only a small part. In terms of electricity generated, the 2013-2014 increase from wind & solar combined is about 6 times smaller than that of hydro (estimated from this Chinese source). 2014 was a great year for Chinese hydro, but hydro is now nearing saturation (~20% of total generation). 

March 2, 2015    View Comment    

On The IEA's Central Projections for Renewables Continue to Look Way Too Low

This article neglects a very important point: a reduction in net additions does not mean a contraction in the industry. Especially for wind, the amount of capacity installations needed to replace old plants will increase sharply over coming years. In fact, as shown below, the IEA projects total yearly wind installations to almost double in the next 20 years. 

 

I agree that the IEA solar PV outlook in its central scenario is somewhat conservative. This outlook rests quite heavily on the assumption of a sharp contraction in Japan over the next few years (similar to what happened in Germany) and a gradual slowdown in China towards the 100 GW by 2020 government target.

50 GW of wind installations in 2014? This source says 33 GW. PV estimates are also pretty varied, strongly influenced by data regarding the year-end sprint in China.

It is also worthwhile to note that the thing that the IEA seems to be worst at predicting is coal (large underprediction). Please see my analysis of the past 15 years of IEA projections

March 2, 2015    View Comment    

On Seeking Consensus on the Internalized Costs of Bioenergy

Thanks for the comment. I corrected the biofuel cost graph by removing the oil reference on the x-axis. The aim here is simply to give the relationship between $/litre, $/gallon and $/barrel for easy comparison to other energy options at a later stage and conversion from the IEA graphs given at the top of the article. 

Regarding heating with wood, I only thought to include this to give some perspective since most people have no feeling for how much energy one GJ is. That being said though, your comment about including the capital costs of the wood burning stove is a valid one. Modern, highly efficient wood burning stoves can be quite expensive and, if the stove is not used much, the capital cost can be significant in the total levelized cost of heating.

However, if the stove is the primary heat source, an average family would consume about 2 cords per year. If this costs $500/year, the fuel costs will exceed the capital costs of the average stove after only 2 years or so, implying that capital costs are small relative to fuel costs over a 20-30 year lifetime. 

February 25, 2015    View Comment    

On Seeking Consensus on the Internalized Costs of Bioenergy

It is hard to know who to believe about biofuels, especially corn ethanol. Drawbacks like impacts on food supplies and low EROI are often mentioned, but the first graph in this article shows that production costs are quite reasonable. The corn price is also quite low despite significant ethanol production. 

I'm sure that we will have many more interesting discussions on this topic in future Seeking Consensus posts when we delve into matters such as externalized costs and total technical potential. 

February 23, 2015    View Comment    

On Seeking Consensus on the Internalized Costs of Bioenergy

DATA: Biofuel costs: $0.7/litre based on the IEA graphs above. 

February 23, 2015    View Comment    

On Seeking Consensus on the Internalized Costs of Bioenergy

DATA: Biomass LCOE: $101/MWh. This under the assumption that the average plant costs $2500/kW (average of developed and developing world), fuel costs of $7/GJ and all the other assumptions given in the article.

February 23, 2015    View Comment    

On Seeking Consensus on the Internalized Costs of Bioenergy

DATA: Raw biomass feedstock: $7/GJ. This is a rough estimate in the middle of the 3.5-10 $/GJ range given in the article. 

February 23, 2015    View Comment